ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Suffolk County officials want to warn residents about rabid bats flying around homes, carrying a potentially deadly disease.
“That’s definitely scary,” resident Tyler Brown said.
Three bats infected with rabies were collected last week in the Town of Islip. Now, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services is advising people to take extra precautions.
Tony Briguglio lives in Sayville and told CBS2’s Jessica Borg he sees bats flying around his backyard at dusk.
“Remember, if you see anything wild running around, you need to stay away from them,” he tells his young son.
“It’s not a major cause for panic at this point, but it’s something everybody needs to be aware of,” Suffolk County SPCA Captain Paul Llobell said.
Llobell said it’s unclear if there’s been an uptick in rabid bats. He advises people to keep their pets inside at night and make sure their animals have gotten the rabies vaccine.
The rabies virus is deadly for humans, too. It’s transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal.
“Play it safe. Assume that every bat is rabid. If you get bit or come into contact with one, get checked out immediately,” Llobell said.
Last summer, Suffolk County put up bat houses in parks for mosquito control. Some residents also have in their backyards, because more bats mean fewer bugs. In fact, officials say bats can devour up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour.
The town of North Hempstead in Nassau County put up the bat houses, as well. But some experts say more bats might mean more cases of rabies.
To keep bats from getting into buildings, do not leave doors or window open without screens, make sure chimneys are closed and plumbing openings are plugged, and seal up any openings that are larger than half an inch by half an inch in your attic or basement.
These are precautions Brown is taking seriously.
“I’ve seen them when I’m taking out the garbage and stuff like that,” he said.
If you see a bat during the daytime, consider it a red flag.